Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Popular

America’s reputation around the world has vastly improved over the last year.

The United States is the most admired country globally thanks largely to the star power of President Barack Obama and his administration, according to a new poll.

It climbed from seventh place last year, ahead of France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan which completed the top five nations in the Nation Brand Index (NBI).

“What’s really remarkable is that in all my years studying national reputation, I have never seen any country experience such a dramatic change in its standing as we see for the United States for 2009,” said Simon Anholt, the founder of NBI, which measured the global image of 50 countries each year.

He believes that during the previous administration of George W. Bush the United States suffered in the world ranking with its unpopular foreign policies but since Obama was elected, and despite the recent economic turmoil, the country’s status has risen globally.

“There is no other explanation,” Anholt said in an interview, referring to the impact of Obama.

The global survey, conducted by GFK Roper Public Affairs & Media, involved 20,000 people in 20 rich and developing countries around the globe. They were asked to rate 50 nations in categories such as culture, governance, people, exports, tourism, landscape and education.

Canada took the biggest hit in the latest survey, falling to seventh from fourth place, while China climbed several spots to 22nd, which Anholt believes in due in part to the successful staging of the Olympics.

So, any bets on how quickly the right wing noise machine will be able to turn this into a bad thing? “America isn’t supposed to be liked! We’re supposed to be feared!” Or, “Oh, great — Barack Hussein Obama has made everybody like us! The terrorists win!” Or, “Of course everybody over there likes him! He’s one of them!” Or, “The world admired Hitler, too!” Trust me, we’ll be hearing crap like that.

Popularity and admiration are fleeting qualities, and it could all change just as quickly in the other direction, but it does have long-term benefits in that it might be easier to get other countries to at least listen to us and work with us to help solve global problems. And it’s better to be liked than feared… or dismissed as an arrogant bully.